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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9212


Mr TURNBULL (Wentworth) (22:00): I have the privilege of representing the communities of Kings Cross, Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay and Darlinghurst in my electorate of Wentworth. The degree of drunkenness and violence in the streets of Kings Cross, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights and the following early mornings, has been a matter of growing concern and apprehension for the residents of those areas for some time. Those areas are the most densely settled residential communities in Australia. They are home to many thousands of our fellow citizens and neighbours.

It is doubly tragic that it took the death of Thomas Kelly, a young man who was killed needlessly and brutally in the streets of Kings Cross on 7 July, for the issue of drunkenness and violence in Kings Cross to become literally a front-page story. To its great credit, the Sydney Morning Herald organised a public meeting on 17 July which I attended, as did the state minister, Mr Souris, and the mayor, Clover Moore. The community of Kings Cross and Potts Point attended in their hundreds to demand action from government.

The state government has responded, commendably, with a proposal to introduce some tough new restrictions on licences in Kings Cross. It will mean that pubs and hotels will not be able to sell shots after midnight on weekends, will have to stop serving alcohol in the hour before they close on weekends, and will be obliged to sell liquor in plastic glasses after midnight. There are a number of other restrictions, too.

What has not yet been provided, and what needs to be provided urgently for the protection of the community, is public transport to enable people to leave that precinct in the early hours of the morning. At the moment there are in a very small area 58 premises—some of them vast, with a capacity of well over 1,000 drinkers—that are open as late as 5 am or indeed are open 24 hours a day. Late on a Friday night or Saturday night there might be 20,000 or 30,000 people, and because the premises are open so late very often they arrive already inebriated. The proposition the AHA put at the public meeting at the town hall that their licensees' employees do not serve liquor to people who are inebriated was one of the few remarks met with a gale of laughter.

This problem of drunkenness is not unique. In Sydney at the moment we are focused on the problems in Kings Cross, and naturally that is a matter of keen concern for me as the local member of parliament. A key issue, as I noted a moment ago, is transport. If the trains stop at a quarter to two in the morning, as they do, but the drinkers are there until three and four and five o'clock in the morning and they cannot get out, then you have a lot of tired, inebriated and increasingly angry people milling around the streets, with the inevitable consequences. I do commend the Premier, Mr O'Farrell, for the changes he has announced—and I trust he will remain resolute with those changes when he meets with the AHA. Sometimes in the AHA's advocacy for their premises they would have you believe that alcohol was a soothing medicine and hotels were the equivalent of childcare centres for adolescents and young adults, so if the Premier remains resolute on these changes that would be a good thing but one matter that only the state government can deal with is the provision of public transport for as long as the premises are open. My simple contention is that if the state government wishes these licensed premises to be open until 5 am, it must provide the public transport to enable the patrons to get home.